Demonstrations in Baghdad as Sadr Calls for New Protests Against US

At least 14 wounded as security forces clash with protesters

It has been a whirlwind weekend in Iraq for supporters of cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. Sadr was reported to have withdrawn support for protests on Saturday morning, leading to an exodus of demonstrators, but issued a new statement Sunday calling for new demonstrations against both the US and “those who have offended the symbol of the nation, Sayed Moqtada al-Sadr.

So the protests are back on Sunday, and Iraqi security forces are back to firing teargas and live bullets at them. At least 14 were wounded, but as usual that doesn’t seem to be impacting the demonstrations.

It’s not clear why Sadr went from calling a “million man march” Friday to withdrawing support Saturday to calling for new protests Sunday, but rivals seem to be trying to make a lot of that, with some suggesting Sadr was “betraying” them to Iran, and some media outlets suggesting everyone protesting was “defying” Sadr, despite many of them coming out because Sadr urged them to do so.

Sadr’s political faction is the largest bloc in parliament, and protesters feared that the loss of his imprimatur would mean security forces would feel more free to crush them. But the police have been aggressively going after protests at any rate, and Sadr can at most be said to be a bit unclear.

Sadr will likely be under pressure to clarify his position in the days to come, but it seems a safe bet that his most consistent position, calling for the withdrawal of US forces, is not going to be changing.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is news editor of Antiwar.com.